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I Am A Retail Warrior: Doggy Dress Code

Three or four times a year, the schedule for the following week is released and, with no warning, we see that one morning an hour-and-a-half before the shop opens we are all scheduled for a "staff meeting." I find the nomenclature somewhat amusing because, aside from the two owners, the staff consists of me, a guy who works two days a week at the most, and an older man who is well past retirement age and has already announced when he'll be retiring in 2016. Staff meetings almost always occur on my day off, which means I have to drag my ass out of bed way too early to attend a meeting that is almost always exactly the same, and while I appreciate being paid for it, it doesn't set a great tone for the remainder of the day.

Staff meetings usually cover a few main topics: Store standards, which we all know by heart, but apparently need reminders on from time to time; the outlook as we pass from one season to the next; and, my least favorite part, work attire.

Let me remind you I work in a dog supply store. It's a boutique, yes, but it's still a dog supply store. Pets are welcome, which means I do a lot of squatting down to scratch ears and I often come home covered in fur and drool.

One of my bosses in particular seems to be the leader of the attire police. We are not allowed to wear jeans, which is understandable (though many of our human customers show up in their yoga clothes). T-shirts are out, though there are times one can get away with "nice knit shirts." We are not to wear sneakers. We are to, at all times, look "sharp."

The subject of attire sometimes only comes up twice a year, as repeated individual infractions are generally addressed privately. Each spring, we are told we may wear shorts or Capri pants with nice shirts and shoes. (The entire staff almost died of embarrassment the year my boss started wearing khaki slim-fit Capris. I think he finally stopped because my older colleague wouldn't stop calling him "Pinnochio.")

Shorts must completely cover the knees. This is not a problem for the guys - men's shorts are generally longer. I still haven't figured out what's offensive about knee caps, but the struggle to find remotely fashionable women's shorts that go past one's knees is real, people. It can't be done.

I made a concerted effort to buy the longest "boyfriend style" shorts The Gap had to offer this summer. I even bought some a size larger than I'd normally wear, because, while they look a bit like I'm wearing someone else's clothes, they at least hang to my mid-knee. He didn't say anything all summer, but when it was time for the fall meeting, my "nice" shorts were banned for length. For nearly five years I've tried to tell him that women's shorts don't come in the length men's shorts do. It's an argument I've yet to win.

During our busier season, which is starting now, we are expected to dress to impress. Long pants (but "not so long you walk on them - it's hardly expensive to get them hemmed!"), preferrably button-down or polo shirts for the men, and cardigans, plain shirts with fashionable cuts and necklines, or patterned shirts that are currently in style for me.

So, basically, the complete antithesis of what I'd wear in real life - jeans and a t-shirt. I have figured out how to wear Doc Martens under my long pants without breaking the dress code - something I'm secretly proud of.

I have actually asked whether we could just have uniform shirts. At one time, many years ago, employees wore polos with embroidered logos on them. I keep getting shot down - it would, apparently, seem too contrived.

I understand not wanting employees showing up in ripped jeans and stained shirts. But I think the three of us who work with any regularity all know that. My own family thinks the dress code is absurd. Both of my parents, who dress nicely and age-appropriately every day, have expressed the opinion that the particular boss for whom our dress code is an issue has "a terrible sense of fashion." If my Brooks Brothers father and Talbots mother find fault in his attire, he sure as hell doesn't need a role in the fashion police.

The real issue, at least for me, is that, despite the fact I make decent money for a retail warrior, I really can't afford to change my entire wardrobe two to three times a year, especially when I don't wear those clothes on my own time.

My mother has suggested I tell him to give us a "clothing allowance." Pretty sure that's not going to go over even remotely well.

Not only is it not financially feasible for me to update my wardrobe every six months, I don't have the space for all my work clothes and personal clothes. I donate things I no longer wear, but my room is overflowing with clothing. I refuse to give up my personal style during my non-working hours, and I have no choice but to have a steady supply of clothes that make me feel like a complete dork when I'm in them. Honestly, there's something wrong when this is an actual life problem.


To end on a humorous and completely unrelated note, I helped a very sincere young guy find the perfect collar for his dog the other day. Why did he need it? The dog was being baptized the following weekend. You can't make this shit up, folks.


Previously in I Am A Retail Warrior:
* 15 Things We Wish Customers Knew.

* I Am Not Your Friend.


Previously in Life At Work: Barista! Tales From The Coffee Front; At Your Service; I Am A Security Guard; I Am A Roofer; Working The Door; I Am A Wrigley Beer Vendor; I Am A Pizza Delivery Guy; and the original Life at Work.


Jane Harper is our pseudonymous retail correspondent. She welcomes your comments.


Posted on September 24, 2015

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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